The first week or two that I was running in Oxford, I was very concerned about all the slow running I was doing. Before I left, I ran 82 minutes for the half marathon, and I came over here planning to train some more and then run under 80 minutes in a half marathon. That's about 6:00 pace for 13 miles. However, it was taking a huge amount of effort just to run 8:00 pace. This was a bad sign.
I tried to attribute this slowness to all the gates I had to pass through during my runs. Let me tell you a little about the gates around here. Some of them are normal gates, like a door in the middle of a long fence; you lift the latch, go through and then latch it again. But then they also have these other kinds of gates, which I had never seen before I went to Ireland in February. Here is one:
This (above) is the first gate of this type that I ever saw, at Tara, outside of Dublin. I thought it was so amazing that I took a picture. It effectively lets people through, but prohibits everything else. Also, only one person can go through at a time, so if a bunch of people all want to pass, it takes a while.
Some of the parks here in Oxford have taken this style of gate to a whole new level. Unlike the one in the picture above, these things are like eight feet tall. Good luck passing a bike or baby stroller over them.
In case you do not fully understand how this sort of gate works, here is a top-view diagram I have made for you, showing how you can enter at the bottom, flatten yourself against the wall on the right, and then swing the door across so that you can exit out the top:
OUCH group run, thinking that they would go about 8:30 pace, which is what they did when I showed up to their Tuesday lunch run. Instead, I ended up running with this one 50-ish guy, who ended up being really fast. We averaged just over 7:00 pace, including passing through several gates of the type exhaustively described above. It was amazing. It revolutionized the way I think about gates. Now I think: just open it and move on, preferably at breakneck speed (and preferably with a nice man who darts ahead, opens it, waits for you to go through, and then closes it). Never again can I blame gates for my slow pace.
Cow grates, on the other hand...